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Facts in Gulliver's Travels

Facts Examples in Gulliver's Travels:


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"Mr. Lemuel Gulliver..."   (Introduction)

Though many of Jonathan Swift’s books, including Gulliver’s Travels, are now printed under his real name, he often initially published books under pseudonyms. Gulliver’s Travels was originally published in 1726 under the pseudonym Lemuel Gulliver, which is the name of the protagonist of the novel. The name may be an allusion to King Lemuel, a king who is featured in Proverbs 31 of the Bible.

"leagues..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

A “league” is any of various units used for measuring distance. A league ranges from about 3.9 to 7.4 kilometers, or roughly 2.4 to 4.6 statute miles.

"Van Diemen's Land..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

“Van Diemen’s Land,” now called Tasmania, is a large island off the coast of Australia. It was originally named Van Diemen’s Land after Anthony van Diemen, a governor of the Dutch East Indian settlements.

"Leyden..."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Leyden, also spelled “Leiden,” is a city in the Netherlands. Gulliver is referring to Leiden University, a highly ranked public university that was established in 1575 and is still internationally reputable today.

"with whom I received four hundred pounds for a portion...."   (Part I - Chapter I)

Gulliver is referring to his receiving a dowry, which in this context, refers to a marriage custom in which the bride gives her money or estate to her husband after marriage. A dowry can also refer to a bride’s family giving a set amount of money to the husband’s family upon marriage. The practice varies widely between countries, and some countries have actually outlawed the custom.

"set us both a-sneezing for several times together..."   (Part I - Chapter II)

The officers have discovered Gulliver's snuff box containing powdered tobacco. Taking snuff, which is ingested through the nostrils, usually results in violent sneezing.

"Alcoran..."   (Part I - Chapter IV)

"Alcoran" is an alternate spelling for the Qur’an or Koran, the sacred text of the Islamic faith. The Koran is composed of the revelations of Allah, or God, to the Prophet Muhammad via the angel Gabriel.

"the Empress..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Through the phrase "the Empress," Swift is alluding to Queen Anne. She believed an earlier work of Swift's, A Tale of a Tub, insulted religion and she discouraged leaders of the Church of England from allowing Swift to advance within the Church.

"About three weeks after this exploit there arrived a solemn embassy from Blefuscu with humble offers of a peace; which was soon concluded upon conditions very advantageous to our Emperor, wherewith I shall not trouble the reader..."   (Part I - Chapter V)

Gulliver's victory and the peace offered to Blefuscu (France) represents the Treaty of Utrecht, which settled the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713.

"Surat..."   (Part I - Chapter VIII)

Surat is a port city in western India, in the state of Gujarat. It is located on the coast of the Arabian Sea, in the Gulf of Khambhat, formerly known as the Gulf of Cambay.

"Downs..."   (Part I - Chapter VIII)

The Downs are a ship anchorage (called a "roadstead") on the southeast coast of England.

"Molucca Islands..."   (Part II - Chapter I)

The Molucca (also spelled Maluku) Islands are a group of east Indonesian islands. They are also referred to as the “Spice Islands” because in the 16th and 17th centuries, nutmeg, cloves, and mace could only be found on these islands. During the 18th century the spices started to be grown elsewhere, but the name has stuck.

"Cape of Good Hope..."   (Part II - Chapter I)

The Cape of Good Hope is located on the Atlantic coast of South Africa. The area is known for frequent storms and choppy seas that can make sailing more difficult. The first European to successfully reach the cape was Bartolomeu Dias in 1478, and he called it the “Cape of Storms” due to these harsh conditions.

"vassal..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

In the feudal system, a “vassal” is a person who resides on the land of a superior on the condition that the tenant has vowed homage to the feudal lord. The vassal thus accepts a subordinate position to the lord.

"guineas..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

A “guinea” was an English gold coin that was used from around the mid-17th to early 18th centuries. The value of the guinea was fixed in 1717 at 21 shillings.

"moidores..."   (Part II - Chapter III)

A “moidore” was a gold coin used in Brazil, Portugal, and later England, from about the mid-17th to the mid-18th centuries. One moidore was roughly equivalent to 4.9 grams of gold, or about 0.03 ounces.

"Salisbury Steeple..."   (Part II - Chapter IV)

The Salisbury Steeple, also known as the Salisbury Cathedral, is an Anglican church in Salisbury, England. The cathedral’s construction was completed in 1258, and at 404 feet high, it has the tallest spire in Britain.

"wherry was equal to a first-rate man-of-war..."   (Part II - Chapter V)

A “wherry” is a light rowboat that is usually used on rivers to transport passengers and goods. A “man-of-war” was an expression used for a battleship. A typical man-of-war ship was very large and would have been heavily armed with cannons and soldiers.

"spinet..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

A “spinet” is a musical instrument that resembles a harpsichord, but it is smaller. The spinet was particularly popular in 18th-century England.

"two islands, which composed three mighty kingdoms under one sovereign, besides our plantations in America. ..."   (Part II - Chapter VI)

The two islands are Great Britain (England and Scotland) and Ireland. The phrase "plantations in America" refers to England's American colonies, all of which were ruled by King George II in 1735.

"scrofulous ..."   (Part III - Chapter VI)

“Scrofulous” refers to scrofula, a tuberculosis of the lymph nodes. The disease is characterized by enlargement and degeneration of the lymph nodes, commonly in the neck.

"Isle of Wight..."   (Part III - Chapter VII)

The Isle of Wight is a county off the south coast of England, about four miles from the county of Hampshire, where the port city Portsmouth is located. The island is separated from the mainland by a straight known as the Solent.

"hanger..."   (Part IV - Chapter I)

In this context, a “hanger” is a short-bladed sword that is similar to a cutlass, with a slightly curved edge. These kinds of swords are often associated with sailors and pirates today, but soldiers used these kinds of swords as well.

"calentures..."   (Part IV - Chapter I)

“Calentures” is the plural form of “calenture” which is a fever that was formerly thought to affect sailors in the tropics. Calenture was characterized by a kind of delirium, and would today be referred to as a type of heat stroke.

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